How the Recipe Testing Email List Began

Dear Recipe Testers,

For those of you who are new to the list, you don't actually have to test the recipes (unless that sounds like fun for you).  This email list started over 20 years ago when AOL was the only email anyone had.  It began when I was writing an Officers' Wives' Cookbook and I had six friends who were helping me proofread and test the recipes.  They would test the recipes and send feedback to me.  Eventually, the list grew quite large, with some of the people forwarding the unedited drafts to twenty or more friends.  I realized then that I needed to do all the actual testing with a small group at home and only send out final drafts via email, instead of having a bunch of different versions of the recipes floating around.  Now the list is basically just a way of sharing my recipes, but I still call it The Recipe Testing Email List.  And I do still love feedback when I've had a few typos.   

The blog was born in December 2006, and the first post was of one of my most copied hors d'oeuvres from Melissa Greenspan's wedding:  Roasted Dates with Goat Cheese and Applewood Bacon.  

The reason the blog was titled "The Maili Files" was because so many people on the Recipe Testing Email List would say to me "I have a Maili File on my computer" or "I print up all of your emails and I have a Maili File in my kitchen."  So, I decided to call it that temporarily because I couldn't think of anything else. Now, eight years later, I still have it.  My intention was to send a recipe out once a week, but for those of you who have been on this list for years, you know that sometimes it is once a week and sometimes it is once every few months.  The good news is that all the past recipes are there forever, so if you need the cornbread recipe from five years ago, it is still on there and easy to find and print up.  

I read a quote the other day that sums up my life: 

"Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us." 

And that is exactly where I am right now:  sitting in my adorable Writing Cottage in the back of this beautiful historic home that I feel beyond lucky that I get to live in.  Granted, life is so insanely busy with three active kids that I am unable to work out here as often as I would like to, but, when I am out here, it is complete bliss.  Here is a picture. First I meet the kindest man in the world, Rob, then I get to share this amazing house with him, and then he helps me turn the garden shed into a writing cottage.  I'm overflowing with gratitude because three-and-a-half years ago I certainly couldn't image that this is where I would end up.  

Now on to other good things that actually have recipes associated with them.  Last March, we started planning a very special dinner to benefit Arts Outreach.   I am on the board of this great organization that provides art, music, and theater to 3,000 children and the elderly in our community.  We are now reaching out to underserved schools in rural areas to provide art for the entire year to those schools.  In the process of planning the dinner, we had to find the best local wine to serve.  For those of you who live in the Santa Ynez Valley and know how many wineries there are, this was no easy task.  The top three wines in each category were exceptional, and it is worth reading the post to see each of them.  Here is a picture of the final tasting at Palacio del Rio where the winning wines were determined.  The link is here

photography Rob Peterson

When you reach out to do one good thing, such as supporting an organization you care about, it leads to all sorts of other good things.  The good things are too numerous to list here, but I will say I met a lot of wonderful people in the process.

I created a number of new recipes for Dinner Under the Oaks. Here is the link to the menu with links to the recipes:  The recipes that do not currently have links will be up soon.  For instance, the Seared Duck Breast with Roasted Grape Jus, I created for the first time that night.  I just demonstrated it at a cooking class on Sunday and I'll be able to get the accurate measurements and technique to you soon.

Finally, I went to the Apple computer store in June to finally sort out the iCloud mess on my iPhone and computer.  Some of my friends' phone numbers and addresses had been added 63 times when everything synced.  It was a big nightmare.  The patient person working at the store helped me straighten quite a bit of it out, but I still had to deal with manually deleting the duplicate phone numbers and addresses that had been loaded.  In that whole process, I may have lost some of the recipe testing emails or I may be emailing an old email, etc.  Please forgive any errors and let me know if I need to make any changes.   I am going to add new addresses this weekend, so if you know someone who would like to be added, I will be happy to do that.

With a heart full of gratitude,


"The true cook has, in his or her modest sphere, such pleasure in recipe making as the musician or poet in composition."


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